Pathfinder Celine Lee: Critical Behind the Scenes Work as Lead Cataloger

Update July 2024: 

On Thursday, August 1, 2024, the SJ Access Circulating Hotspot program will end.

Beginning July 8th, all existing hotspot holds will be canceled, and hotspots will no longer be able to be requested. Additionally, the mobile data plans on all SJ Access Chromebooks will be discontinued as of July 16, 2024

Image: Photograph of Celine Lee in front of one of her Cataloging projects, Inclusive Subject Headings.

Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

Celine Lee is San José Public Library's lead cataloging librarian and Korean language selector.  She is the Library's lead cataloging librarian because she has an impressive background in her field.

In addition to her invaluable work in the Library since 2012, Celine has worked both internationally and nationally.

Graduating with a degree in Library and Information Science and Business Administration from South Korea's Sungkyunkwan University, Celine worked at the South Korean libraries for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP.)  These two organizations, run by the United Nations, focus on World Peace and sound environmental practices.

Nationally, Celine has worked at many universities around the country, from the east coast to the west coast.  She obtained her Master in Library and Information Science at Syracuse University in New York, where she worked at both Syracuse University Library and State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University Library.  She worked as a cataloging librarian in the Midwest at the Ohio University Library in Athens, Ohio before working at San José Public Library.

Celine is the Library's lead cataloging librarian.  But you might wonder what is a "cataloging librarian?"

What is Cataloging in the Library?

Cataloging is the process of creating metadata.  Metadata is data that represents other data.  In order for you to be able to select books, dvds, and other materials from the library or other libraries, you need to use our catalog.

Each item in the library's catalog is represented by a record in machine-readable form, which can be found by searching the library's catalog, for instance.  The titles, authors, and subjects that you find in our catalog have been provided by our catalogers, who create the description of the item in our catalog.

For instance, if you were searching for Call of the Wild by Jack London, catalogers create the record of Call of the Wild in the library's database so that you can find it by the title or by Jack London.  You can also find Call of the Wild with the following subject searches: dogs-Juvenile fiction, wolves-juvenile fiction, etc.  There are other ways to search: keyword, Dewey call number, etc.  All of these ways have been provided to you courtesy of the cataloger!

Celine says that "cataloging staff work behind the scenes but are a public service."  The hard-working behind the scenes staff include Austin Carrell, Laura Nacorda, Fabian Garcia and Carmen Vital.  In addition, the following people also work behind the scenes with Celine: Hadi Amjadi, Daniel Ong, Sonia Chen, Florence Wong, Tim Reif, and Supervisor Sharon Fung.

The service that catalogers provide was especially critical during the Pandemic!

Providing a Portal to Access iPads, Chromebooks, Laptops, and Hotspots!

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, City administrators were faced with a difficult problem:  how to provide important informational services like Library services to you!  The Library quickly expanded services like Library Chat in order for Library staff to be available to answer all the questions that were being asked at that confusing time!

In June 2020, the Library started Express Pickup Services, which allowed customers to borrow materials based upon information that they found on the Library's catalog.

According to Celine,

"Before the pandemic, the customers could freely enter the priceless library and browse the shelves, and find what they wanted. But during the pandemic, there were some barriers and limitations to enter the library buildings. Instead, people searched the catalog to find what they want."

Catalogers provided the all important access to materials by providing concise records that were easily searchable.  If these records had not been easily searchable, customers would have had difficulty in finding the books that they wanted!

Understanding the importance of the cataloger's work also requires an understanding of how the Library provides access to not only physical materials, but also to digital resources.

From March 2020 to May 2020, customers needed easy access to digital resources like eBooks, eMagazines, etc. during the shelter-in-place.  The Library also provides concise records for digital resources, as well.  Many customers were grateful for the eResources that were provided during this very scary time, when most everyone was required to stay at home!

Finally, the Library needed to provide resources so that people could access information.  The Library became the clearinghouse for Hotspots, which students needed in order to access virtual lessons.  The Library also started to provide donated laptops, iPads, and Chromebooks for people and students who were working from home.

Celine tells me,

"The device cataloging records are very important to give access to the community and staff."

The cataloging Device Project moved quickly from community need to implementation because of the hard work of Celine Lee and her fellow catalogers!

What Celine Does as Lead Cataloging Librarian

As lead cataloging librarian, Celine has many responsibilities.  Here is a snapshot of some of her many responsibilities:

  • The Library uses two kinds of cataloging: copy cataloging (using pre-existing information) and original cataloging.  Celine performs the original cataloging for all material types and languages.  You may have noticed all of the languages that the Library provides in addition to English: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, Kannada and Malayalam, Marathi Korean, Japanese, Russian, Persian, Arabic, Tagalog, and European languages.  Celine provides original cataloging in those languages for the 25 branch libraries, California room collections, Periodicals, and San José City proceedings.
  • She sets up the following: "shelf-ready cataloging vendor standards, San José Public Library local cataloging protocols, manages the cataloging database, and solves the troubleshooting regarding the cataloging search issues."
  • Celine "assigns subject headings, call numbers, fixed codes, and variable codes" in order to follow cataloging standards.
  • Celine communicates regularly with a wide variety of people, including vendors, staff, and customers.
  • She performs database management tasks to ensure proper operation of the catalog.
  • "Collaborating with other departments to improve workflow" is one of the key aspects to her job.
  • She regularly attends national or international conferences and workshops to learn current cataloging trends.

These are just some of the behind the scenes work that Celine performs.  Celine also provides important work that directly affects you!

Celine Works Directly With You!

As mentioned, an important Library service that catalogers provided was access to Hotspots, iPads, laptops, and Chromebooks.  In addition, Celine provides cataloging expertise in the following projects:

Celine initiates and performs the SJPL Inclusive Language Subject Heading project.  In this project, the Library is trying to update outdated terms for more current and inclusive terms, for example, changing the subject headings from “illegal alien” to “undocumented immigrant."

She also participates in PLP(Pacific Library Partnership) Group World Languages Materials Resource Project or SVLS (Silicon Valley Library System Pacific Library Partnership).  This is a joint project with regional libraries to "to coordinate world language materials acquisition and cataloging."

In 2020 and 2021 Celine tells me that she provided the following English to Korean language translation services:

She provides the following Korean language information:  writes a Korean Bilingual blog for the Library, including the Korean E-resource blog.

Celine is also proud of her work in her native Korean culture.  She has delivered programs about Korean artwork alongside San José State University librarian Diana Wu.  The event, "Hidden Treasures of Korean Art and Modern Korea, was especially satisfying.

She has participated in promoting Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2016 when she presented "50 Wonders of Korea."

One popular program at the Library is our Conversation Clubs.  In addition to learning English, library customers may also learn other languages!  Celine tells me,

"In January 2013, I started the Korean Conversation Club, which operated on a weekly basis until January 2020. At the Cafe, I provided a weekly hour-long Korean language lesson for interested adult users. During the session, I promoted the Library's Korean resources and used them as study materials. This program was featured in the Korean Daily US. Along with general users of the public library, many San José State University users also attended."

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below!